When it comes to state-level Covid restrictions – bans, shutdowns, snitch lines and the rest – the big media and the pundit class (pardon, more and more, the redundancy) act a lot like strict but blinkered Fundamentalists confronting two-for-ones at happy hour; the impenitent deserve any horrors that befall them, in this life or the next.
All through the summer, Big Media was fairly drooling at the notion that, while Covid was ravaging New York and Boston and Minneapolis, “it’s gonna hit the red states MUCH harder”, with a perceptible thrill in their voice.
Which is all I have to explain the way Big Media has covered the surge in Covid in the Dakotas. I’ve called the phenomenon “#BlueFragility” – the notion that no matter what goes wrong in a Blue city or state – crime, corruption, costs, Covid, bureaucratic legerdemain – it’s going to be worse in the Red areas, and it’s probably their fault besides!
The level of joy that came out a few weeks ago when North Dakota’s case load surged (after a cold, wet October – the same weather that’s gonna cause a surge everywhere else, before too long) had a pronounced “Scarlet Letter” vibe to it.
And it’s not just pseudomoral schadenfreud. It’s bastardizing both science and journalism (to the extent that benighted craft can still be bastardized). Remember the Sturgis rally? When snarky bobbleheads with tin “reporter” badges uncritically regurgitated garbage “science” tying every single case in the upper midwest to the Sturgis rally? That made the headlines. The clarification – it was more like 80 cases in Minnesota – got Section C page 16.
Oh yeah – being big media, pretty much everything they’ve written about the situation is wrong. To pick just one bit of misreporting – the story from a few weeks back that Gov. Burgum was asking infected but asymptomatic staff to keep working:.
“Anger in North Dakota After Governor Asks Covid-Positive Health Workers To Keep Working.” That does sound pretty dire – the state is so swamped that the sick are treating the sick.
Except this is a phenomenon in agricultural states generally because they rely on small rural Critical Access Hospitals, often with few beds and limited or nonexistent intensive care capabilities. “COVID-19 patients and other critically ill patients who need to be cared for in an intensive care unit are typically transferred to larger regional hospitals, which can be hundreds of miles from the small critical hospitals,” notes USA Today when it’s not berating the Dakotas. This adds extra pressure to city hospitals and can potentially increase case severity and death. In fact, the CDC spells out guidance for areas in such situations that allows such working situations precisely because unlike what we normally think of as a disease case, that is, an exhibition of a certain cluster of symptoms, many Covid-19 “cases” are asymptomatic and non-spreading. It’s just one of the many idiosyncrasies of how this disease is treated compared to others.
While I chalk this up to a frenzy of secular-revivalist fervor, the author, Michael Fumento, adds another wrinkle to the diagnosis:
Say you’re a writer in New York or Los Angeles living in something approaching a coronavirus police state and fearing for your job and pining for a pint and you learn North Dakota ranked second in least economic distress from the pandemic while South Dakota also did quite well. Further, a U.S. Census Bureau poll found that the two states least suffering from anxiety and depression right now are, yup, the Dakotas. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s freedom!
I do urge you to read the whole thing.
By the way – unlike pretty much any mainstream media figure, I’ve spent time in the Dakotas since the pandemic started. A *lot* of time. Four times since March. While there was no state mask mandate, people *on their own* were wearing them, no less than in the Twin Cities.
And in a better contrast still? Listening to Governor Burgum addressing the state is a wonderful contrast to Governor Klink; he treats his audience like someone he has to respect as adults, puts the actual science out there, and doesn’t play stupid stunts like hiding his math, a welcome comparison to the gym teacher with his knobs and levers and vanishing models.
Moving as I did from NoDak to the big city 35 years ago, I’ve had an adult lifetime of dealing with “blue” stereotypes of the rural west. I’d say “I’m gonna enjoy watching them choke on them”, but it’s probably too soon.